autobiography Blog comic con

APE 2011

The Alternative Press Expo in sunny San Francisco has come and gone once again.  This was my third year tabling at APE.  Although the show had some stiff competition in the form of a free bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park, attendance was good and the Concourse hummed with the good vibes of people talking about their comics.
Representing Portland along with me was my tablemate Reid.  The only thing missing between the two white guys with beards was a pot of Stumptown coffee.

Reid was not only my tablemate this year, we also shared a ride to and from San Francisco.  On our way down we stopped in Arcata, California, a small college town that borders the woodsy home of the elusive Bigfoot.  It was in those woods in 1967 that Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin shot the famous video of Bigfoot lumbering across a clearing, looking back with what can only be described as utter indifference, and continuing on her merry way.
How do I know the gender of Bigfoot?  It was one of many facts I learned in the Willow Creek China Flat Museum, located in the business district of Willow Creek. Reid and I had made special plans to stop at the museum on our way to San Francisco, and we were not disappointed.  The Willow Creek museum celebrates the town’s history and has an entire wing dedicated to the ongoing study of Bigfoot.
I recommend stopping there not only for the wealth of Bigfoot-related evidence (mainly casts of footprints, historical newspaper clippings of men holding casts of footprints, and a beautiful painting of Mrs. Bigfoot), but for the lovely ladies who run the museum.  We arrived at the museum right at opening; one elderly woman was turning on the lights.  “I’ve got to go wake up Bigfoot,” she said as we entered.  Soon after two of her friends came to keep her company.  They are all in a quilting club; the museum had notices of their quilting events hanging beside maps of Bigfoot sightings.  It was an incredibly cute experience, talking to these women about Bigfoot.
The Bigfoot museum looked like a run to the grocery store compared to the strange restaurant we went to in Chinatown.  Sam Wo, a restaurant I cannot recommend highly enough, was where Reid, Tyrell, Matt, and I chose to eat on Saturday night.  Let me take you through our journey and attempt to illustrate what kind of place this is.
You enter Sam Wo through the kitchen.  Walk in the door, there you are.  March right through where all the food is being prepared and up a narrow flight of stairs.  There is a smallish dining area with maybe seven tables.  A tiny Chinese woman is the only server, and she cannot move quickly enough.  It is as though someone is constantly rushing her along.  That person does not exist.  The customers are patient (presumably they do not want to be the cause of her inevitable nervous breakdown).  The folks preparing the food downstairs work quietly; I never once heard them give her an order.  No, this server is the one running the place, and she is a force of nature.
When we got upstairs all the tables were full and we thought we’d have to go someplace else.  Not so.  The server told us that the upstairs is closed some of the time – apparently she decides when to open the third floor.  She unlatched a chain and ushered us, along with two other groups, up another flight of stairs.  The layout of the third floor is similar to the second.

Once we were all seated the server barreled up the stairs, threw dishes and chopsticks at all three tables, and then shouted numbers at us.  “You are table one, three, and four!” she said as she ran back downstairs.  A few minutes later she ran back up to take our orders.  Table one was a couple and she almost wouldn’t accept their order.  “That’s too much food!” she said.  They had to assure her that that was what they wanted.

There is a dumbwaiter extending to all three floors, although if anyone could carry trays of food up and down stairs all night you can bet it would be this woman.  By the time we got our food she had become a legendary figure, much more real than Bigfoot and in some ways scarier.  Don’t ask her for your green tea before it’s ready.  I made the mistake of going downstairs to see if we could get our drinks and she yelled at me to go back upstairs.  I felt like I had a Chinese grandma.

Our meal was complete but we still had to figure out how much we owed.  The receipt was in Chinese and had been torn.  Were we expected to remember how much each of our dishes cost and add them up ourselves?  Reid was finally able to extract a grand total from the server and we made the wise decision to tip generously.  It was one of the most bizarre, fun dinners I’ve ever eaten.

But what about the convention?  I was in San Francisco to sell comics.  This year, possibly because of the bluegrass concert, a hiphop concert, and the Castro Street Fair, I did not do as well as in years past.  I still made table, so the trip was definitely worthwhile, but I am beginning to wonder if I’ve tapped out my market in the Bay Area.

It might be time to investigate other comic conventions.  Next year I will be attending MoCCA in New York for the second time, and would like to try SPX in Bethesda and TCAF in Toronto.  I also put in my application for ComicCon in San Diego, fingers crossed.  If I can get in there, that will be wild.

Thanks again, San Francisco and APE.  I had a wonderful time.

Check out the comics of these talented and super friendly people.  I love that I have convention friends all over the country.
Monty Borror
Kevin Woody
Noah Van Sciver
Greg Means
Keith Knight
Stephen Notley
Miriam Libicki

autobiography Blog comic con

APE 2009

L1010385       This year was the first time I attended the Alternative Press Expo, held in a part of Northern California known for earthquakes, big trees, gay people desecrating the Institution of Marriage, hippies, and a heartfelt desire not to be confused with Southern California.

My trip into the heart of Bigfoot Country began with a drive through Redwoods State Park.L1010224The trees there are as big as advertised. In fact, my traveling companion Andy and I came across this tree, known simply as Big Tree. The Park Service calls ’em like they see ’em.L1010261L1010280The scale was confusing as dusk approached. Were the trees really that big, or had we shrunk?L1010290L1010291With trees this huge, it was hard to refrain from just cutting them all down. That was the first reaction of the people of the last few centuries, and I can see why. With something this extraordinary, this powerful, this magical, your first instinct is to tear it to pieces. In spite of this totally understandable response to the beauty of nature, many big trees still stand.

My wife, who was sadly not able to make the trip, had made one request of me: cut down a redwood and bring it back to her. Like any good husband, I wanted to fulfill my duty to my lady. Yet, despite meticulous planning and one of those very long saws, Andy and I couldn’t figure how to load a tree onto my tiny VW. Knowing the wrath I would incur back home, I left all trees standing.

Redwoods are not the only oversized phenomenon in Northern California. Living in those woods is the rarely seen Bigfoot. Here is a plaster cast of a Bigfoot track, seen with my foot for comparison.L1010337The Bigfoot is so elusive that even the museum dedicated to him was closed. Oh Bigfoot, how can we know you better if you never allow us to buy key chains in your image? L1010341
Bigfoot Country.L1010346
But the main goal of this trip was not to find and befriend Bigfoot. It was to sell comics. APE, in San Francisco, is held in a large yet comforting space just south of downtown. This being my second show as an exhibitor, I had no expectations sales-wise. I set up my table and waited for the crush of humanity. This is how it must feel for Bono and The Edge just before a show.L1010372I highly recommend the work of my table-mate, Kenan. If you’re wondering, that’s a comic story masquerading as a calendar on the left side of his table. To the right of Kenan is Cate, who was absolutely not for sale.L1010373I met a lot of very nice Californians at APE. I was also able to reconnect with cartoonist friends, which is nice because normally when two cartoonists see each other on the street they must duel to the death. The townsfolk scatter, the sheriff pretends to be busy, and the casket-maker rubs his palms together in anticipation. But at events like these, the rules are suspended and we all get along.L1010420
After APE was over, I was able to wander the streets of San Francisco a bit. In many ways the city reminds me of a larger version of Portland.L1010401
Instead of the Willamette River, they have the Pacific Ocean.L1010418
They have a number of public transportation options, including these historic streetcars.L1010423

The Castro Theater was playing Grey Gardens. Very amusing.L1010427In spite of these similarities, there were moments when my expectations of San Francisco did not match up to its present reality.

One of my two disappointments was the Haight Ashbury district. Instead of a freewheelin’ love fest, I found million-dollar condos and a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop. I love ice cream as much as the next guy, but it was something of a let-down. At least some dude parked his VW bus right on the corner. Thanks for keeping it real.L1010436
On the upside, there was a cool bookstore on Haight which took my Falling Rock books to sell. Thank you! I was pleased to see many such thriving independent bookstores in San Francisco. The kind of bookstore that doesn’t have much space, but somehow manages to carry all the awesome books you’ve never heard of but really want to read.

Besides Haight Ashbury, my other disappointment was Berkeley College. If I had driven my VW to campus 40 years ago, I would have been greeted with a flower wreath and offers to smoke from a dozen bongs. This year, I got slapped with a parking ticket for hopping out of my car to take a few pictures. Enjoy this one; it counts as one of the most expensive photos I’ve ever taken.L1010444I’m sad to say my trip included the discovery that hippies either fried themselves on drugs or went corporate. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

In spite of being let down by the hippies, my trip was both productive and enjoyable. The state of California is only bankrupt in the financial, not the moral, sense. (Except Berkeley. I hate you.) CA certainly knows how to put on a cracking good comics fest. Thanks to APE and to all the people I met. I hope we can do it again sometime.

autobiography Blog comic con


I spent the majority of my 30th birthday driving home from San Francisco. Some people may say this is not the best way to spend an Important Milestone. But for me it was perfect. I got to talk to friends and family, I listened to podcasts and music, and I got the hell out of California. It’s good to be back in Oregon.

Last weekend I was at APE (the Alternative Press Expo). I’ll provide a full report soon, but suffice to say it was a lot of fun and I even sold some Falling Rock books in the process. Many thanks to my awesome table-mate Kenan and his lady friend Cate, who, despite living on the wrong side of the country, made the whole event fun and over too quickly. L1010368San Franciscans kind of remind me of people in Portland. They dress similarly and both cities have a thriving arts community.L1010388
For some reason, the Chinese placed this tile in Jack Kerouac’s honor. Was Kerouac a Chinese hero? Did Mao encourage public readings of Dharma Bums?L1010365
The main question is, now that my youth has officially died, what is in store for me? I’m happy with my accomplishments so far, but there’s still a lot of comics left in this tired old body.

One thing is certain: the rest of my life will be dedicated to finding and befriending the elusive Bigfoot.L1010351